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NCTA’s guest list a secret

Apr 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

It’s not unusual for industry trade associations to invite leading federal lawmakers to speak at their conventions.
But in a rare twist, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association last week announced that 12 of the 13 legislators it expects to have on hand during its convention in New Orleans May 5-8 won’t be making public convention presentations-and NCTA is declining to reveal their identities or what they’ll be doing in the Big Easy.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate for the NCTA to identify attendees who are not on the public program,” said Marc Smith, an NCTA spokesman. “The true purpose of this is for elected representatives to see firsthand what services this industry is offering their constituents.”
Under federal ethics guidelines, NCTA and other industry groups are allowed to pick up the travel, food and lodging expenses of lawmakers who attend their conventions. Though the lawmakers are supposed to disclose their travel arrangements in a congressional reporting form after they return to Washington, nothing in the guidelines requires NCTA to identify the members of the visiting congressional delegation.
But Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy, said the secrecy NCTA is according its congressional guests should raise eyebrows. “If I was a congressman, I would be incredibly embarrassed,” Mr. Chester said. “It looks like these members are secretly beholden to the cable lobby instead of the public.”
Earlier this month, the National Association of Broadcasters had nine lawmakers on hand for its convention in Las Vegas. But an NAB spokesman said all of the broadcasting association’s congressional guests were identified and appeared in public convention sessions.
The only lawmaker slated to speak publicly at NCTA’s conference is Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.